Pak-U.S relations in trouble

The relations between U.S. and Pakistan are in trouble. The relations were already strained before President Trump made his famous New Year tweet. President Trump tweeted that Pakistan had rewarded past U.S. aid with nothing but lies and deceit. President Trump’s first tweet of 2018 shattered the optimism many here in Pakistan that there would be way forward in the bilateral relationship. From American generals stationed in Afghanistan to the US ambassador to the UN — accusations and threats have been routinely levelled against Pakistan. Notice after notice instructing us to do more when it comes to taking “decisive action” against militant groups that are “destabilising the region”. 

 Pakistan is no more a trusted ally for US. For Pakistan, US is no more a trusted friend.   Both the countries developed serious differences and doubts on each other’s Afghan strategy. The US wants more action against Haqqanis and other   Afghan Taliban groups. Trump administration strongly believes that Pakistan is still providing safe heavens to militant groups fighting against US and Afghan forces. If Afghan Taliban and Haqqanis are irritating factors for US then the Indian presence in Afghanistan is irritating for Pakistan. The chances of diplomatic engagement to improve the relations seem off the table at least for now.

Afghanistan is not the only bone of contention between U.S and Pakistan.  India is another factor. Its not just the Indian role in Afghanistan that is the matter of concern for Pakistan but the real worry is the strategic alliance between U.S and India. Pakistan chooses U.S as its friend and ally in the cold war era. Pakistan was the main base of U.S in the war against Soviet Union. While India kept close ties with Soviet Union. The economic and military rise of china changed everything. The China’s rise poses threat to American interests in the region. Pakistan was not in a position to form an alliance with America against china. Pakistan always maintained very close friendly relations with Communist China.

So U.S sided with India to counter the advance of China in the Asian region. India was also looking to dominate the South Asian region. So the U.S started to develop long term strategic partnership. The U.S lured India with supply of civil nuclear technology. The U.S started to provide military equipment and hardware to India. These developments forced Pakistan to align itself more closely with China. Pakistan also improved its relations with Russia and started to purchase military equipment from it. Trump administration is not seemed interested to address the Pakistani concerns regarding India and Afghanistan. If the Trump administration thinks that it has a strong case against Pakistan then Pakistan also has its legitimate concerns and interests. If America has a right to safeguard its interests then Pakistan enjoys the same right.

Trump administration is weighing different options to put more pressure on Pakistan to take action against militants. On the other hand, Pakistan is looking into options to ease the pressure. The US has already stopped military assistance to Pakistan. Trump administration can impose more military and economic sanctions. Trump administration will try to further isolate Pakistan. The problem for the U.S is that major European powers are not siding with Trump administration to completely isolate Pakistan. The Europeans wants to engage Pakistan through diplomatic means.

There has been talk of the Americans following the suspension of assistance with sanctions or else a beefed up drone programme. But if Washington were to use the military infrastructure in place in Afghanistan to cross over into Pakistani territory or to violate airspace, it will be a declaration of war. The possibility of war or military conflict is less likely option for U.S. U.S will consider other options to put more pressure on Pakistan. U.S can put pressure on IMF and World Bank to stop loans to Pakistan. Economic sanctions and trade barriers can be used. 

If, however, Washington actively pursues this course of action, the fallout out could be a full-blown diplomatic shutdown. This pressure tactics and arm twisting can backfire and becomes counterproductive in the long run. Pakistan will be forced to look for new partners and allies. Despite the current turmoil at the domestic level in Pakistan — continued US belligerence could quite possibly unite the nation. Not just in terms of civil-military ties but also with regard to shoring up unlikely allies which would help the country stand tall.

Finally, the notion that the US is taking out its defeat in Afghanistan on Pakistan carries less weight. For ever since China and Russia have begun mediating peace efforts across our western border — the Americans need to stay put to counter this new rising regional alliance which casts Islamabad as the softest target for US ire. With safe havens of other groups, such as ISIS, springing up in Afghanistan, Trump’s accusations against at this country appear increasingly un-weighted.

Trump administration want to see Pakistan entirely subservient to American dictates and to bring it on line with American policy in the region. The Trump administration desperately wants to consolidate its position in the region. The Chinese hegemony is not acceptable for U.S. The Russia-China alliance is a major threat for the American interests in the region. The thus far strong reaction by the government here to recent developments indicates that while Islamabad may be willing to face US sanctions — it will not tolerate any measures undermining its sovereignty.

The military and economic dependence on America was a mistake and needs to be corrected. But it does not mean to develop new dependence on China or Russia. Pakistan needs to balance its foreign policy. Pakistani establishment and ruling class needs to learn from their past mistakes. Pakistani masses suffered a lot because of the flawed policies. Religious extremism, militancy, lawlessness, drugs and violence is the result of these policies. We should accept past mistakes and try to avoid them now. Making a mistake is not a crime but keep repeating it becomes a crime.

Analysis by Khalid Bhatti editor N&A news

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